Looking Back (Bronica S2)
Most of the photographers that I know are into their gear as much (or more) as they are into making photos, and I’m not really any different. Back when I was a carpenter, I learned that there is nothing quite like working with a really well made tool. I’m not talking about a DeWalt circular saw, or a Hitachi nail gun… I’m talking about about using a Stanley Bedrock No. 605 that has been well tuned and razor sharp, or a hand made Japanese chisel that fits so perfectly in your hand that you don’t want to put it down, or a Disston No. 8 handsaw that’s set and sharp and perfectly balanced. For me, using old film cameras has a very similar feeling, so it’s not really surprising that I own some 30+ old cameras, and try to use all of them. A well made camera is sometimes enough inspiration in itself to make me want to go take photos just to use it.
One camera that continues to inspire me that way is my 1960s Zenza Bronica S2 and its Nikkor-P 75mm f/2.8 lens. The camera aside, the Nikkor-P 75/2.8 is reason enough to pick up one of these cameras. It’s a fantastic lens with fantastic rendering, and is one of the best bargains in medium format optics. The camera is also a great camera and usually a great bargain. Competing with names like Hasselblad and Rolleiflex, the early Bronica cameras developed (whether deserved or not) a reputation for being unreliable, so these cameras can usually be found for a song. As for reliability… I doubt the original Bronica was any less reliable than the original Hasselblad, and the later Bronica S2 and S2a and still very good cameras. They are also beautiful cameras. To me, the Bronica S2 is the Dusenberg of cameras. It’s a symphony of chrome and steel, with a touch of Art Deco design. Everything operates with precision and smoothness. The shutter is nearly the loudest I’ve used, but is actually quite smooth still. The Zenza Bronica story is a fascinating story. If you get a chance, google it and read up on it.
Here’s a photo of my Bronica S2,
And here are some photos that I’ve made with it,